Don’t you hate it when you finally get comfortable with a piece of software and some genius makes you upgrade to a newer and “better” version? You’ve just reached the point at which you can use the tools efficiently to do your work, you know where all your favourite features are located, and then you have to essentially start over, taking weeks to familiarise yourself with the changes. Why, you wonder, do companies continue to add new features to software anyway, when people only use 15% of the features that exist in the first place?

We hear these kinds of comments a lot at Microsoft. We hear them from teachers, from schools and from customers when we’re talking to them about upgrading. I think upgrades are especially daunting in education, when many teachers can be pretty insecure about using the software they have already. Schools and local authorities are then required to plan and pay for additional CPD just around the new software in order to make any upgrade decision worthwhile.Capture

A colleague recently pointed me to some great interactive tools that help with the transition from Microsoft Office 2003 to 2007. They’re little Flash demos that can be easily installed on any computer. (We’ve created a SkyDrive HERE and have posted them for you.)

Here’s an example of the PowerPoint tool in action. When you launch the interactive tool, you get the instruction box at the right, which is truly all the instruction you need.

Once you click Start, you’re taken to the main window of PowerPoint 2003. All you need to do is hover the mouse over any menu or button and you’ll see where it exists in PowerPoint 2007, as shown below.

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Think of how much time, money and training these little applications can save your schools. If you can’t find something you’re looking for in Office 2007, just open up the demo, point to where you know the command exists in Office 2003, and find the new location in a matter of seconds. It will only take one or two tries before you start to remember the new locations and don’t need these tools at all anymore.

And, believe it or not, you may even start to prefer the new version of Office. Personally, I have no idea how I ever created a PowerPoint presentation without Office 2007’s SmartArt feature. (Actually, I know exactly how I did it. I spent hours painstakingly drawing, shading and grouping individual graphics, creating something that ended up looking as unprofessional as it was…)

These interactive tools exist for PowerPoint 2007, Excel 2007, Outlook 2007 and Word 2007. Check them out, share them with your teachers, and let us know what you think.